Afro-Latino Fest: Afrolatinidad and African Roots with Madame Vacile

Last week, audiovisual Bocafloja and Remezcla released a collaborative Black Lives Matter playlist, a testament to not only Black / Latinx solidarity but Black Latinx identity. That’s what the Afro-Latino Festival was about-- a weekend of Black-celebration-- a space of music and culture in the midst of Black death, both slow and sudden.  

While something like Afro-Latino Festival, in this country, needs a lot of explaining, it isn’t always the case in other communities. The African-Latinx connection is inherent for many artists. On the second day of the conference, La Liga sat down to talk with selecta, Madame Vacile, the Afro-Colombian fusion artist that comes from one of Colombia's’ most well-known Black regions, Barranquilla. We talked afrocolombianidad, roots and the history of DJ artistry as she came to vacilar for the first time in New York City. Peep below!

Luna Olavarría Gallegos: This is your first time here-- how do you feel?
Madame Vacile: Obviously so so happy, anxious and nervous. But I’m really content with the results. The people were moving and dancing to Afro-Colombian music. 

Afrolatinidad means flavor. You can say that it means beach, life, enjoyment, joy.

LOG: Can you describe what afrolatinidad and afrocolombianidad mean? 
MV: You can say that afrolatinidad means flavor. You can say that it means beach, life, enjoyment, joy. The music that we do is to live this life and be inside of it. It means so much to be able to represent here in New York, the capital of the world, all this music that us Afro-Colombians have to offer.

 Foto por  Afro-Latino Fest

LOG: You mentioned that you identify as a selecta, what does that mean?
MV: In the ‘30s, a long time ago, the selectas were the ones who put on the music. From all the music that came, she was the one to choose the music to play and the DJ, at the same time, was in the discotech putting on the music and adding sounds. The DJ controlled the controller and put the music that the selecta had selected. This was what happened many years ago, but  with the rise of hip hop, the DJ started to gain more importance. But the selecta chooses the music and the DJ mixes. The selecta is the one who investigates. 

This is the music that we need to be listening to right now. Africa is the future.

LOG: Can you talk about the mixes you do?
MV: In my mixes I generally use Afro-Colombian music, but over everything, my work is mixing everything that is playing right now in Africa. Everything new. Everything from South Africa, Uganda and Kenya-- they’re making really good music but they’re not all well known. This is the music that we need to be listening to right now. Africa is the future.

LOG: Can you describe where you're from and how's the African influence in that region? 
MV: I come from Barranquilla. In Baranquilla there’s a lot of Afro-Colombian descendance. We’re only four hours away from San Bacilio de Palenque, which is a region that’s 100% Palenquero, which is like a mini Africa in Colombia. We have that influence and so we’ve heard this music for so long (from the time of the slaves) so we have so much different music. And even more so because we’re the Puerto de Oro, which makes us receive music all the time. Everyone enters from there.

On the Atlantic Coast we listen to “terape criolla” which is in reality afrocolombianidad-- that’s really Colombia and Africa united. It’s music that Colombians make according to the African influence they have listened to when African music comes over here. They’re 100% African rhythms. In Barranquilla it’s called champeta, but us who know it well call it terape criolla. 

I say that Africa is the future because all of our sounds come from there. All of them. Absolutely all of them.

LOG: Why do you say that Africa is the future?
MV: Because the roots are Black. With whichever type of music without excluding them, the roots come from Africa. So it’s Africa. It’s the music that makes me move the most. I think music can solve all of our internal conflicts, and Colombia is a place that collects all those sounds. I say that Africa is the future because all of our sounds come from there. All of them. Absolutely all of them. From there is where everything came from, it’s the root of everything. The drums, the guitar, the voices. It’s like it gives us the strength to leave. We are in a struggle and we want to get out of it.